Unconference Session #4 Notes – TC Camp 2017

Documentation for The Internet of Things

Top takeaways:

  • We still don’t know exactly how the IOT works or will work.
  • Our end user for some information now includes the machine itself, not a human consumer.
  • We expect an increase in API docs.
  • End user docs may decrease for the human component. If there is user control, there must be user doc. May still be in different forms – i.e. virtual reality.
  • Standards are much more important, not just within your company, but across all devices you work with.


REST APIs must be involved, because it’s a dialog between technology. Processing huge amounts of data. Not sure where doc fits in – it’s machine controlled. Increases need for API doc but otherwise it’s just working. Not traditional doc but still something.

Consumer of our info is changing to the machine. We don’t know how it is going to work. Hairbrush that can analyze your hair. Scales that analyze your weight pattern. Doc for these things are for the app to get that data. Not always just the product app because it integrates with other products who should be doing that dependent doc.

Info req. Depends on device and purpose. If documenting a soil sensor may not need as much as a health care device. Dependent on a standard for all devices to talk to each other so doc needs to also evolve to conform to that standard even if all products aren’t created by you. Smart home devices have different platforms, APIs, etc. but eventually when homes talk to other homes – where’s the common ground. Does one end up winning?

If this then that – website with applets. Ifttt.com

If you go to hardware store you don’t get a manual for nails. Similarly if you buy something that talks to something else you don’t need doc.

If there is a user control, it needs doc.

Documentation Automation

Top takeaways:

  • Macros good for automation
  • Standalone tools such as AutoHotKeys
  • Tools such as Ant, Make, Powershell, and run process on the docs.
  • Excel is useful as a step in running automated processes.
  • Flare command line can be used to automate builds of Flare projects.
  • Build tools such as Jenkins to create scripts and run on the docs.
  • DITA-OT QA plugin can be used to automate QA on the docs.


  • Problem generating form Scala code. Could do Javadoc.
  • Can use macros to automate.
  • There are macro applications that work [.. ??]
  • AutoHotKey – macro create, edit, execute
  • Powershell – Windows command line, can read XML and JSON, it turns it into objects and creates an object tree. Modify into MS Office products. Can use it to auto-create PPT. Part of OS in Windows 10.
  • Python has library[?] amd can make [ ??? ] Excel file
  • Regular expressions can use to automate tasks. Lots of tool editors support it and also programming languages.
  • Excel -> Notepad++ -> Regex -> Markdown
  • Excel spreadsheet -> SQL query for database
  • ATOM plugin  generates TOC for MD files, Markdown TOC
  • Make files – simple – can save and run commands. Auto-generation after Make
  • Excel can be used because it’s structured, eg. making files from XML, used Excel to set up commands to run on on XML file (XSLT script could also be used)
  • Flare’s CLI can build your Flare project and you can get it to do some automation.
  • Can use Jenkins automated build tool and create scripts to run on docs. Maybe add parameters for diff outputs (like ZIP).
  • Can write commit tool for Git that does a certain action on a commit.
  • AZARDI – EPUB reader for desktop.
  • DITA-Open Toolkit QA plugin can input terminology and markup condition. Eg. point to set of topics, it checks for conditions and generates a report.
  • Acrolinx – tool in cloud, configure to check docs and generate a report.
  • Hemmingway app – is good for editorial comments.

Effort Estimation

Top takeaways:

  • Scope time and effort, use existing metrics from previous projects, Joanne Hackos.
  • Add sufficient fudge factor (~10%) for surprises and unknowns.
  • Educate others in company about authoring/publishing process.


  • How much time does writer(s) have? What’s absolutely necessary?
  • Use existing metrics to estimate hours. (J. Hackos seminars) Quick time, quality, cost – one or more weeks to give.
  • Schedule back from deadline, 1-2 weeks fudge factor.
  • 40 hours to produce 1-2 hours of training material
  • Use metrics from previous projects.
  • User Assistance (Joe Welinske) – little content based on user testing.
  • Why make the estimate? To get paid fairly, realistic schedule, manage resources.
  • Educate others in company about authoring/publishing process.
  • Schedule impacted by dependencies on developers/other team members, product keeps changing.
  • Freeze dates (code, UI, features) – if not adhered to, impacts schedule.

How to get users’ feedback

Scribe: Julie McMullen

Top takeaways:

  • User feedback does not equal doc review
  • User feedback can be direct (you → them) or indirect (e.g., through Support)
  • Survey is good so you can control what/how is asked
  • Analytics provide feedback indirectly (page counts, search terms, etc.)
  • User forums provide feedback


  • Users = people who user the docs
  • Survey – to mailing list for outtages, etc. – had to get approval
  • Are you even allowed to talk to customers?
  • Figure out what you need to know before creating questions
  • Results are helpful, help identify trends
  • Difference between feedback & review comments
  • Survey could fix this
  • Is it the user’s job to give you feedback, though?
  • One way is “Give Feedback” button
  • Bottom line – get feedback whenever/however you can
  • Feedback – direct or indirect
  • Analytics can give feedback

Style Guides

Leader: Elaina Cherry

Scribe: Share Clare

Top takeaways:

  1. Style guides make authoring easier. You have authority to enforce consistent wording
  2. Look & Feel belongs in a style sheet, not a style guide
  3. Style guide must address higher-order issues, that enable non-writers to contribute content


More than just Look & Feel? Yes! Look & Feel is for the style sheet

These are just a few items to be included:

  • tone, voice, tense
  • capitalization (do headings use title or sentence capitalization)
  • spelling (acceptable variations from American standard spelling)
  • terminology – also what not to use
  • rules such as headings are never followed by headings
  • principles – such as breaking content into steps, using minimalist principles
  • use of abbreviations (e.g., i.e., etc.)

What is it for?

  • Training other writers
  • Settle disputes
  • Used during reviews

Is a style guide important?

  • This topic attracted fewer people than other topics

Who is the audience for the style guide?

  • Engineers (especially non-native English speakers)
  • UX designers
  • Marketing

Getting hiring managers’ attention

Scribe: Aleida Vandenbosch

Top takeaways:

  • Take the initiative to connect with recruiter
  • Research, Research!
  • Strategies:
    • LinkedIn: portfolio sample to LinkedIn
    • Resume: skills on tap
    • Phone: narrate your exp to their needs


  • Who just updates LinkedIn and expects some recruiter to contact them?
    • No one reads every word: Keyword search. – tailor to job you want
    • LinkedIn Profile is forward looking
  • Tailored cover letter with keywords for job description; every application needs tailored cover letter
  • If not getting activity, not qualified and/or change strategy (e.g., LINKSV = profile db companies; do research, direct in mail, get on their radar).
  • How to get on radar of hiring manager – rely on networking and interact with them.
    • Make sure you be gracious, helpful, appreciate initiative, give them an option to say No.
    • Or employee-referral bonus incentive – ok to network with them too.
  • Recruiters: too many out there and inexperienced. Saturated market; new reality-recruiter may not know or talk to hiring manager. Time to fill position taking longer to fill.
  • Portfolio
    • What writing sample is in demand.
    • Make sure portfolio writing sample is linked to LinkedIn, if you don’t have time to build own website.
    • Put something on LinkedIn first – gives hiring manager reason to take seriously.
  • All companys have own self interest
    • e.g. # of social media followers – collect connections; youtube video: video skills/knowledge
  • LinkedIn status updates go to all of your connections
    • Couple times a month and only if you have something to say.
    • Ppl will tune you out if too loud and too often.
    • Keywords will help you.
  • Portfolio Samples (max 4 pg from TOC – no need to be in order – Intro, sub topic, reference).
  • Resume: Skills at top (before work experience) and include categories to show you know how to org info.
  • Job Titles: Current title is just “Technical Writer” but I feel like a Sr. Can I add that level? Yes.

Phone Job Interview:

  • Find out about recruiter and hiring manager
  • They love taking about themselves.
  • What is your idea candidate and narrate to that.
  • Research, research, research.